Sunday, September 23, 2012

Always Have Something - Whole Grains

The easiest way to make sure you've got an easy meal in no time flat is to have cooked whole grains already in your fridge. When I use the last of my grains (or before that), I start my next batch. My favorites are the ones you put in the pot, set to simmer and then leave until the timer goes off.

If I've made nothing in advance, quinoa (which cooks in 15 minutes) is my go-to, because it's quick and nutritious - a full source of protein.

Gluten - There is a lot of awareness about gluten sensitivity, intolerance and Celiac's disease surfacing these days. Glutenous grains do tend to be "heavier" in the body, meaning they take more effort to digest, so even if you don't notice any adversity to it (which I don't myself), do take notice of how you feel when you eat a lot of it, since there is a lot of gluten-heavy wheat everywhere (too much of it makes me feel sluggish). Getting away from processed foods will make this significantly easier.

Grains with gluten:
wheat, barley, bulgur (cracked wheat), kamut (a wheat variety), rye, spelt

Gluten-free grains: 
brown rice, buckwheat (aka kasha), oats/oatmeal (though questionable due to content and contamination - look for certification), amaranth, corn, millet, quinoa, wild rice, teff

Soaking - I do this when I remember to. When I don't, I just skip this step and make a note to myself to do it next time. Soaking helps grains to cook down softer and quicker, and to be more easily digested and nutritionally available to our bodies. Read more about the why and how of soaking at Just Making Noise, a great blog for recipes and reference.

Cooking - Varies a lot by grain. Here is a great chart with measurements, cooking times, and yield basics for most basic whole grains from the Whole Grains Counsil.

How to get started - Pick one grain (like brown rice or quinoa) that is an easy substitute into your meals. Buy organic. If your local grocery store has a bulk section, it's a great way to save money by not paying for packaging. I store my grains at home in glass jars (save your mayo and salsa jars). It's also a great way to try out a small amount of something new. Make a big batch this week - cook double what you think you'll eat so that you only have to cook once to eat many times. Grains reheat and freeze wonderfully.

Whole grains are chewier and have a nuttier, fuller flavor than refined grains. You and your family may find this unfamiliar at first. But after a month or two, refined grains may start to taste plain and uninteresting in contrast. Stick with it until your palate adjusts and you'll reap the health and taste benefits!

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